The Natural Portrait

My friend Helen Durfee always said that the fall season in Western Pa is just as nice as Vermont, just a little less dramatic. She grew up in the Laurel Highlands and lived the first part of her married life in Vermont. I agree that Vermont and New England are famous for “leaf peeping” but I have to say that this particular fall here in Western Pa. has been spectacular. img_1111

I have been treated to some amazing days of mountain biking and hiking this fall where I have taken the time to enjoy the color of the leaves. I have taken the time to “savor” the days like a fine steak or fresh seafood. I try to take little bites and enjoy the flavor. Like my commute to work on Squaw Run  Road. I don’t go the fastest route to work but rather the scenic roads to enjoy the changes in the leaves each day. This year the changes have been remarkable. img_1117

Another contributing factor to my enjoyment of Fall 2016 has been the app that was suggested to me by my friend Eric Durfee( Helen’s husband and native Vermonter). It is called ProHDX and can be downloaded on your I-Phone. This particular app allows you to shoot a photo and really get the focus and colors sharply so that the end result is an I-Phone photo that looks particularly good compared to most. I am not a real good photographer and the only camera I have is on my I-Phone. But I have really enjoyed using this app and the convenience of the I-Phone on a ride or a hike can yield some spectacularly sharp images. img_1106

The one nice thing about a hike or taking in the view from a mountain bike is that you can avoid all of the cars packed with “leaf peepers” and enjoy the quiet transformation of the season in the woods of Western Pennsylvania. Many past seasons have been rushed with race pace rides looking at nothing other than the persons backside in front of me. Games, practices, kid’s activities take a lot of time and effort for many of us. But as you age and the seasons of rushing to activities wane, it is a great practice to slow down, take in the seasons, and enjoy the flames of the maple leaves, the golden colors of the oak trees and even the pale shading of the ferns on the forest floor. In my old backpacking days, I did take the time to hike and enjoy the fall in the Laurel Highlands. But in the many years since, those times had been replaced by soccer games, basketball games and general activities with my wife and son. Now I have a college student who does his own thing, and my wife and I are trying to slow down and enjoy what God provides for us by way of a natural display of color. img_1108

So, I guess the message here is to savor your experiences. The yearly season change where the warm days try to hang on into Indian Summer, create some spectacular viewing if you take the time to enjoy the days. You don’t have to go to the mountains to enjoy the scene. Just look out your window, your windshield, or take a walk in the neighborhood. Smell that fall aroma of leaves. See the tannin of the leaves change the creek colors. Notice the difference. Slow down. Thanks for reading.

We were Outlaws

Lets have a little fun this week? How many old mountain bikers does it take to screw in a light bulb? Four!!! One to screw it in and 3 to remember how great the old bulb was. That is about right when we remember the days when we were outlaws on the trails. Billy Kirk and I were talking at our post riding place, the OTB Cafe when he said,” Hey Pat- how about a post on the old days?” So here we are Billy. Back in the late 80’s when a lot of my crowd started riding, we had equipment that was relatively simple.img_1097 Shocks had not been invented yet so we were all riding chromoly hard tails,cantilever brakes, with 3 ” knobby tires and no suspension. I had a Scott with a “U” brake that kept collecting leaves, mud,cigarette packages, and other various and sundry items because this bike was really meant for fire roads out west instead of nasty, rooty trails of the east. But we all managed. Trouble is- our local trails were really hiking and horse trails and the police didn’t appreciate our new activity on these established trails especially at night. night-ride-october-2-of-1
But we continued to ride and when the police yelled at us through their bull horns to get off the trails, we simply shut off our lights and waited them out. They got smart and started to park at our lot to wait for us as we came back with our lights. But we waited them out until they left, scrambled to our cars and trucks and left in a hurry, spewing invectives about donuts. Other trail users didn’t like us back in the day and we had to somehow carve out a place for our activity on our local and statewide trails. img_1098

Fast forward- mountain biking was becoming real popular in 1989 and the first local race series started with Gary Bywaters forming the Month of Mud. Back in the day, most of us were road riders and mountain biking was new to us as we struggled with the new equipment in a race setting. img_1095 Not to mention the fact that By had us racing in late October and November. Snow began to fall at the Brady’s Run course one year, and at the end of the race, there was 6 inches of fresh powder on the trails. Needless to say, guys like me ended up over the bars multiple times. The Cranberry Course was often flooded and By used to place pink flamingos on the course to lighten the atmosphere. We even had a course at Traxx Farms where we raced through a pumpkin patch. All of this effort for fabulous prizes such as a rock, a pear or an apple. The season ending trophies were By’s old race walking trophies with the name plates removed and typed result labels scotch taped to the trophies. A lot of these stories rest in the lore of the Month of Mud and I love to tell the fast guys today about the “good old days.” Some of them can relate but most of them were toddlers when we raced the original Month of Mud races. Hell, I have socks older than most of those guys. But they are fast!!!

It is fun to talk about the old days of mountain bike riding in Western Pa and West Virginia.The characters and the personalities are many. But life moves on and like the old bulb, it really has to go. The Month of Mud today is big time with sponsors, 100+ riders and multiple classes. A much different event than the exploratory atmosphere of the old days. Also, we have as a community, carved out a place on the trails with the good work being done by Trail Pittsburgh, LHORBA( Laurel Highlands Off Road Bicycle Association) and PORC( Pittsburgh Off Road Cyclists). A lot of sweat equity being done to validate our place on the trails. We don’t have to hide from the police anymore, they ride with us. Times change, equipment has surely changed and a lot of us old veterans are keeping current by continuing to ride and investing in the new products. Despite knee replacements, hip replacements, family obligations, time constraints with work, and other distractions, the old guard still rides and passes on the traditions to the new guys and gals. We learn a lot from each other. That is the thing about activities like mountain biking. The participation level spans all age groups. A lot of time has passed for many of us, but the thrill of the trail captivates us on many levels. So Billy, I will continue to tell the stories and when it becomes too repetitive, just put me in the corner and tell me to go to sleep. Thanks for reading.

Photos of  Jeff ” Bionic Knees” Wuerthele,  Karl “the legend” Rosengarth, and yours truly, courtesy of Dirt Rag Magazine.

It’s the little things that matter.

I don’t know about you, but the older I get, the more I think time is flying by. The days, the months, the years, all seem to advance so quickly. I seem to be on a rocket ship flying through the universe with planets, asteroids, stars, whipping by the body of the rocket at a rapid pace and I don’t even have the chance to observe them in detail. That is why I am making an effort to hit the reverse thrusters and try to enjoy the little things that matter. When you value the little things, it slows life down a bit. Take for instance these mums in front of my house.img_1082 I have taken notice each day of their blooming pattern. I take the scenic route to work and instead of taking the major state route, I take the road less traveled which allows me to enjoy the changing of the leaves which happens before my eyes just like the blooming of the mums. jilllake
I don’t go to the store and get the plastic bag of apples. This time of year, I go to the local farm market and get what is fresh. I look at the apple that I am about to eat from the farm and value the crisp, juicy, taste instead of the dried, tasteless bag of apples that came out of the cooler at a refrigerated distribution center warehouse.
My wife gets a kick out of me running out of the house at night to see the space shuttle fly across the evening sky. I get my notice from NASA each day and make an effort to see the shuttle. It is the fastest thing in the heavens on most evenings and its path intrigues me. Similarly, I get my telescope out to view the planets and get excited to see a little white sphere in my lens with smaller white dots that are the moons surrounding Venus or the ring around Saturn. I text my son to come out and see and he says to me,” Dad, I see it ten times better on the Internet.” They say little things amuse little minds but I think little things are what slow things down a bit. Looking at the stars on a night ride on my mountain bike. Whenever there is a break, I look up. night-ride-october-2-of-1

While I am on the subject of little things, lets talk about little kindnesses which we are afforded or afford each day. Things are hectic now and there is a lot of pressure just to get through life for most people. But when you slow down, and appreciate the little things that people do for you, it enhances your life experience. When my wife gives me a hug, a kind word from a friend, support when you are down. These are the little gems that make life easier. People do nice things for me all the time and I appreciate them. Patrick Dahlkemper did me a huge solid on a root canal. Barry Jeffries always takes care of me at Dirty Harry’s Bike Shop. Richard helps me out with a recent ski boot purchase at Peak Ski and Board. They don’t have to do these things, they do them because they like me. Go figure! I tend to have the Irish National Curse and always want to pay them back immediately. But I need to slow down and appreciate the kindness that they give me just because. On the “pay it forward” path, our lives are enriched when we afford little kindnesses to those we deal with on a daily basis and to the ones we love. I need to hold Janet’s hand more often. I try to always be there to help friends whether they are in need or just support them daily. The Golden Rule is sometimes lost today in this self serving world of ours. We are compelled to be kind to others not because they did something nice for us, but because we are all in this together. At the risk of being cliche’, ” All lives matter.” And as a believer, I know we are compelled to behave this way. So, as the seasons change, try to hit that reverse thruster, and enjoy the small things in life. That red oak leaf on your entrance mat that ushers in the fall season. That first sip of apple cider. The crackling of a fire, paying it forward. Even a little donut. img_1083 Thanks for reading.

Mr. Palmer


I have never been a good golfer. In fact, I have not played in four years. However, my dad introduced me to the game as a young man and the one thing I do have is a respect for the traditions of the game of golf. As a high school guy, I had the opportunity to attend the PGA National Team Championship at Laurel Valley here in Western Pa. Dr. Anthony Nicolette and his two sons Richard and John were all friends of mine from the neighborhood and Dr. Nicolette was Arnold Palmer’s eye doctor. When the team event was at Laurel Valley, Dr. Nicolette piled us all into his car and off we went to see the best golfers in the world compete. It was there that I had the chance to meet the great Arnold Palmer. Mr. Palmer to us.

Golf: Thunderbird Classic Invitational: Arnold Palmer smoking cigarette during Friday play at Westchester CC.  Rye, NY 6/14/1963 CREDIT: Neil Leifer (Photo by Neil Leifer /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images) (Set Number: X9294 TK1 C12 F19 )

Golf: Thunderbird Classic Invitational: Arnold Palmer smoking cigarette during Friday play at Westchester CC.
Rye, NY 6/14/1963
CREDIT: Neil Leifer (Photo by Neil Leifer /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)
(Set Number: X9294 TK1 C12 F19 )

As young bucks, Richard and John and I were star struck as Mr.Palmer conversed with their dad. Doc N then always introduced us and with an intent, interested, look, Mr. Palmer shook our hand and asked how we were enjoying the day. His handshake was strong and his demeanor sincere as if we were all he had to think about at that moment. We were part of his army and he wanted to make sure we were having a good time.

A few years later, I had the opportunity to marshall at the US. Open at Oakmont. I have posted on the experience before but I remember Johnny Miller floating up the fairway in total concentration looking at no one in the gallery. Jack Nicklaus stared down most people in the gallery with a competitive steely eyed look that almost made you feel uncomfortable. Arnold Palmer, on the other hand, stopped to talk to all of the marshalls on our hole while waiting to take his shot. I remember him asking me where I was from and again, was I enjoying the tournament? Arnold Palmer, asking me, if I was having a good time while he was in the thick of the hunt for the US Open! That is the kind of guy he was and we lost a good man this week in Western Pennsylvania when he passed away on Sunday.

25 MAR 2013:   Tiger Woods shares a laugh with Arnold Palmer as Woods holds the Arnold Palmer Invitational trophy after winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Florida.

25 MAR 2013: Tiger Woods shares a laugh with Arnold Palmer as Woods holds the Arnold Palmer Invitational trophy after winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Florida.

There has been a lot written about the man this week by some very eloquent journalists and folks who knew Arnold Palmer very well. I do know he was a kind man, a benevolent person with the March of Dimes and building a children’s hospital in Orlando. I know he was a mentor to young players for many years including Tiger Woods. But as the writers say, he made golf accessible to the common man. This included young guys like Richard and John and me who were amazed at the time that he afforded to us and his friendly relationship with his eye doctor with whom no request was too much. He made sure Doc Nicolette was given primary parking, marshalling duties with Laurel Valley attire, dining privileges and on and on, personally attended to by Arnold Palmer himself. He took care of Doc Nicolette and didn’t leave it up to his assistant. That is the kind of person we saw when we had interaction with this legend from Latrobe, Pa. arnold-palmer-2016-masters

He is gone now. But his legacy will live on and his benevolence for charitable causes will also continue because of his personal attention to detail. No wonder the “army” followed him faithfully years into his career. You always knew where Palmer was on the course. Richard and John and I have him etched in our memory forever because of his kindness to us and his eye doctor. RIP Mr. Arnold Palmer. Thanks for reading.


Well, the leaves are starting to change and the nights are becoming cool.Football season has returned to Western Pennsylvania and the beloved Pittsburgh Steelers are 2-0 so far and things are looking good. This brings back some memories for me which include an icon of American broadcasting. Please review the following link before you move on here. Myron Cope was a real character whose background as a sports journalist was extensive. He became the voice of the Steelers on radio broadcasts with Bill Hillgrove for many years and entertained us with his antics and his quirky voice which you hear in the video. I always liked Myron and his commentary and in fact had an interesting interlude with him back in the day. download-1
As many of you know, the Terrible Towel, waved frantically by Steeler fans, was created by Myron and all the proceeds have been donated to his foundation for many years. The Towel has been copied by other sports teams but the original Terrible Towel is first and foremost a Pittsburgh thing and we are most proud to wave it to encourage the performance of our Steelers in crucial game situations. original_towel

A while back, I was booked on a CMH Heli-Ski trip to the Bobbie Burns Range in British Columbia with some friends from our local ski area. As it turned out, our Steelers were in the Super Bowl at this time and we wanted to somehow honor them and show our pride to the other groups who would be staying with us up in BC. I brought a Terrible Towel with me and we had our guide take a picture of all of us with the Towel on the summit of one of the peaks where we would be skiing. img_1059

I had some copies made when we returned and I sent one of them to Myron Cope with a note saying that we did our part to cheer on the Steelers in a remote location of North America. I felt good about doing that and had some internal chuckles along the way thinking about what Myron would think of the picture. One day, while sitting at my desk, I got a phone call and picked up the receiver and much to my surprise the voice on the other end said,” Is this Pat McClozzzzzzzzzgey?” I said yes it is and the voice continued with ” This is Myron Cope.” ” I found your number and wanted to give you a call to tell you that your picture is hanging on my office wall between the guys with the Towel at the South Pole and the guys with the Towel at the Great Wall of China” I was thrilled and said that I was so happy to send it to him and really thanked him for the phone call. He said it was his pleasure and that he really appreciated the gesture and went on to relate to me all the places where the Towel had been and how many pictures he had with the Towel in locations all over the world. He gave me a few ” Ummm Haaaaas.” and some gutteral “Ls” in his language. Like ” LLLLLLLLLLLambert is the best LLLLLLLLLLLinebacker in the LLLLLLLLLeague.” But his sincerity in calling me was most appreciated. I have heard a lot of good things about Myron over the years and how benevolent he was with local charities. We miss him in Pittsburgh and his cheery enthusiasm will long be remembered by Steeler fans for many years. We are proud of the Black and Gold here and Myron generated a lot of that enthusiasm. Wave that Towel, Steeler Nation, – wherever you are in the country. Thanks for reading.

Tuscany in Ontario


Sometimes the more you learn, the more you realize how much you don’t know. Take wine making for instance. Now, I have been to a lot of wine making regions on various trips but that was not the focus of the trips and I have not paid much attention. My lovely wife enjoys a glass of wine but I admit that giving me a nice glass of wine would be like giving a beautifully ripe strawberry to a hog. However on a recent trip to the Niagra on the Lake, Ontario region of Canada, my education process began. img_1050

There are hundreds of wineries in this beautiful region and we had the opportunity to visit two of them complete with tastings for Janet. I observed and listened intently to some things I did not know. For instance, the glasses used for some wines are different in that they are wider and deeper and encourage one to get their nose in the glass and smell the aromas which enhances the taste on the palate. We learned about pairings of wines with food. Cabernet Franc is an excellent choice with tomato dishes and pizza. Merlot is excellent with lamb. Chardonay, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc are great with seafood. There are red blends that are great with filets and all things chocolate that include berries and other fruits along with a blend of wine. We learned about the different grapes that are grown to produce the various selections of wines. img_1043

Most of this information was given to us at the Trius Winery where we also had a delicious lunch on the patio in the brilliant fall sunshine. img_1049

We then moved on to the Colonari Estate Winery where I was intrigued by the “Appassimento” process of drying out the grapes to a certain degree to enhance the body and structure of the juice which in turn enhanced the sweetness of the wine. This is labor intensive and involves moving trays of grapes into a drying greenhouse. Only three wineries in the region use this process and blend some of their wines with 40% juice from this process. This particular winery was amazing and the grounds looked like you were right  in the middle of the northern Italian wine regions. img_1052

If you take the time to do the tastings at selected wineries, you can learn a lot. Again, I don’t know much about wine but I learned a considerable amount from listening to the hosts who served the various choices of wines at the tastings. I asked what was the difference between California wines and the Ontario wines and the comment was made that California has a consistent warm climate which enhances the sweetness of the juice. The “Appassimento” process facilitates this to a degree in the Ontario region because of the short growing and wine making season. img_1039

As an aside, the Niagra on the Lake region is an excellent place to ride a bicycle with a beautiful bike path that extends all the way to Niagra Falls winding its way along the wineries and flanked by the Niagra River. You can also ride by Ft. George which was built by the British in 1789 and recreated and restored in the 1930s. Riding into town, you can take in the various shops and restaurants of which Zees is one of our favorites with excellent food like braised lamb shank and the house specialty grilled swordfish. A great place to stay is the Harbour House B&B which is right on Lake Ontario which is beautifully appointed and maybe has the best house made granola I have ever tasted at their complimentary breakfast. img_1048

All in all, we enjoy Niagra on the Lake and venturing into Canada from our house in Pennsylvania is only a four hour drive. But once you are there, it has the feel of Europe with the vast areas of grapevines, road signs in metric measurement, and bilingual tourists from all over the world. img_1037

Again, introducing me to good wine is kind of lost when I prefer an ice cold IPA. However, I am learning and the process is definitely interesting. I learned just about how much I don’t know about a particular subject but I will venture north again with my lovely wife to learn more and enjoy the wonderful ambiance of Canada. Thanks for reading.

A Real American Hero

I always respect anyone who is serving in the military. I have always respected and admired veterans who served in the armed forces and the sacrifices that they made to ensure our way of life here in the United States. As a history buff, I also value the place in our past that is reserved for veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice or those whose actions merited historical significance. There are many of these stories in our history and I wanted my son Jack to be aware that there was one of these stories right within his own family.

One day, a few years back, there was an event at the Allegheny County Airport here in Pittsburgh where one could actually view and tour a B-24 bomber from World War II. My son and I stopped to pick up my Uncle Jack and when my son introduced himself and said, ” Hello, I am Jack McCloskey,” my Uncle responded ” No you are not, I’m Jack McCloskey.” My son giggled as we asked Uncle Jack or “Handsome Jack” as he liked to call himself how he was doing? He replied in his usual comical way,” First class, first class, at least that’s what the girls all say.” My son Jack giggled and off we went to the airport. slocum-b24-diamond-lil-up-close-2013-copy

When we arrived, my Uncle, who was in his 80’s, jumped up into the cockpit of the aircraft like he owned the plane. I asked Jack to keep an eye on him and don’t let him fall, but young Jack had a hard time keeping up the the old fella as he made his way through the plane explaining to everyone who would want to listen about the features of a B-24 bomber used in the Great War. You see, my uncle was the pilot of one of those planes and this is his story.

After flight school in the Army Air Corps, Handsome Jack became a pilot of a B-24 that provided support to the ground invasion of Italy during the Anzio Beach campaign. I can remember my uncle relating the tale of his 52 missions over the area returning to base every night with extensive flak damage to the fuselage caused by anti-aircraft gunners of the German Army. Imagine a young guy, I believe around 21 years old, being shot at every day and limping back to base awaiting repair of the aircraft only to fly out again the next day on another bombing mission. When I was 21, I was looking for my next cheeseburger. Times were different then and boys became men in a real hurry. Shortly after his 52nd mission, Handsome Jack was sent to his first mission in Rangoon, Burma and took Japanese anti aircraft fire and the plane was in peril. He assembled the crew and told them to prepare for bailout and as they all parachuted out of the burning craft, the B-24 hit the trees and exploded. My Uncle and his crew landed in the tall trees of the Burmese forest and made their way down to the base of the trees with my uncle breaking his back and his ankle. The Japanese were there waiting for them and immediately took them prisoner.


The long and the short of it was that my uncle spent a year as a prisoner of war, keeping the crew’s spirit in tact by singing Irish songs and Christmas songs with his beautiful Irish tenor voice only to personally and eventually bury all of his crew. The British eventually bombed the camp and as my uncle fled for his life, waiving at the RAF frantically, they realized he was one of the prisoners and rescued him after a year in excruciating conditions of captivity. He made his way back to Bellevue, Pa., his home, much to the delight of my grandparents, my dad, and my aunts, who had given him up for dead. What a homecoming he had consuming a dozen eggs as his first meal back home with his family. Handsome Jack received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart for his heroism under the most grueling conditions. His positive attitude kept him alive not only during his Anzio campaign, but in the bowels of a Japanese POW camp in a remote part of the jungle.
As young Jack led Handsome Jack around the restored aircraft that day, I couldn’t help to think to myself that my son was witnessing history in the making. My uncle was in my mind, a real American hero. I was so glad that my son had the opportunity to meet my hero as his kind are leaving us rapidly these days with each passing year. My Uncle is no longer with us, but his memory is kept alive with every Irish song I hear and every tale I read about the bravery of our veterans in World War II. If you see anyone who has served in the military, take the time to thank them for their service.They will appreciate it. Thanks for reading.